Often as adults we forget the carefree enthusiasm of our childhood as we feel compelled to remain inside the lines, blindly and faithfully doing what we’re told the same way we followed what “Simon said” to do when he instructed us to place our right hand on our head or our left foot behind us. But, what if (oh- there is that inspirational phrase “what if?”) we don’t stay within the lines, but rather- we color wildly outside the box splashing bright colors of red, orange and yellow all over the blank page until our work turns into something beautifully abstract and unique. Is it possible to turn an innocent curiosity into a passion for life or for some aspect of life, such as love, friendship , family, a sport, hobby or craft?
Last month when my youngest son asked for my help with his English assignment for which he was to write about Emily Dickinson’s “There Came a Wind Like a Bugle” my first step was to research the analysis’s written by experts in the field. After all, I knew I was not an expert on Emily Dickinson, therefore I couldn’t possibly expect to come to a sound understanding on my own that could be “correct” enough. However, after reading over many essays and articles I felt disappointed to find only the same boring response repeated over and over by each critique, which in my view, was the obvious one to which anyone would conclude; “the poem is about how a fierce storm can destroy things”.
Notwithstanding, upon reading the poem several times- that simple description fit like an uncomfortable pair of jeans, therefore; I had no choice but to toss it out and come up with another one.
Consequently, I decided to be brave and examine Dickinson’s poem my own way, viewing its meaning the way I saw it instead of the way I thought everyone else would or should.
While the poem certainly illustrated that a natural storm has the ability to cause great damage, there are other dangers that have the same power. Because Emily Dickinson wrote this poem around the time of the 1961-1965 Civil War, I viewed the poem as a subtle portrayal of war and the devastation that war causes to those left behind in its awful wake. Like nature, man-made dangers contain the same powerful ability to reek havoc on lives and on the world to the same degree to which nature does, if not even a greater ability.
Yet, incredibly, in the end after the dust falls away, the ocean continues to sweep up against the sand in high and low tides, the grasses continue to sway with the peaceful breezes on the open prairies and suburbia back yards, and the nearly 5, 000 year old methuselah bristlecone pine tree in California’s White Mountains proceeds to grow as one of the worlds oldest trees. Despite the dangers we fight and the tragedies, calamities and obstacles we face each day of our lives the world goes on and with it- life.
In Emily Dickinson’s poem, some saw the danger of the storm and I saw the poet’s need to sort through her emotions toward the many other dangers we might fear, and further, that although we can often feel powerless or hopeless, there is always the wonder of life and the drive to survive that continues to empower us. Now, if only we can find a way to reignite the sometimes lost carefree enthusiasm we cherished as children- in order to trust ourselves more. We might do this not only through the telling and reading of big stories written simply but through “big life” felt deeply, with meaning. Emily Dickinson knew that and so should the rest of us as we allow ourselves to let go enough to finally feel free to color wildly outside the box once and for all.